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Illustration: Vidhya Nagarajan

Summer music festivals

Making sense of the season’s dizzying array of fests.


Picking cereal used to be so easy. There was an oat one, a rice one, a wheat one, a corn one and one that ate holes in your teeth. Now cereal takes up an entire grocery aisle—there are 12 freakin’ varieties of Cheerios. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the options. Now imagine you could buy only those minibox variety packs. And they come in 80-count bundles and cost $100.

That sums up the dilemma facing music fans in Chicago this summer. We have a cornucopia of music festivals—at least one every weekend. And the number of big-tent, big-ticket events just went up, thanks to the arrival of the Dave Matthews Band Caravan. It remains to be seen whether that new South Side shindig can coexist with Lollapalooza. And Pitchfork. And the still-in-its-infancy North Coast Music Festival.

In total, 279 acts pile into town for those four concerts alone. It’d take $615, 12 days, a quart of SPF 30 lotion and possibly a teleportation device to see them all. But you probably want to splurge on just one. Which? That’s what we’re here for. Or, you could take in one of the cheap and surprisingly talent-rich street fests that deliver snap, crackle and pop for less cash than, well, a bowl of cereal.

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